Napster in the Hands of an Angry God

Looking over the latest appeals court ruling in the Napster case, I'm reminded of Jonathan Edwards's Enfield sermon:

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God's hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

And there you have it. The court dangles Napster, that peer-to-peer web-spinning spider, over the fires of injunctive damnation with a look of pure loathing in its eye. And yet, almost unaccountably, the court does not let go. What is it, I wonder, that hides behind the decision to remand? What hope of salvation does the legal system still hold out to Napster's sinners? Is there room yet for repentance, for Napster to turn away from its sins and be born again into the love of legal protection? I think there is. The court is making very clear that the injunction must be targeted to the offense. Stopping piracy, it has said, does not justify shutting down Napster. If Napster refuses to do its part to stop piracy, though, now that would justify the flames.

It's a put up or shut up time for Napster: either it needs to take seriously the fact that most of its users are breaking the law, or it will surely perish. There is to be no more of this false sanctimony, the court is saying. No longer will they listen to Napster claim innocence when it comes to the crimes of its users. To dwell amongst sin is to be consumed by it. Not for nothing did Edwards end his sermon by invoking Sodom:

Let every one fly out of Sodom: "Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed."